Erich Schlegel—Human Rights Campaign/AP
May 23, 2022 6:06 AM EDT

For the past five years, Texas lawmakers have made it a priority to target transgender youth, introducing dozens of antitrans bills. Emmett Schelling, the executive director for the Transgender Education Network of Texas, has spent day and night fighting back and building love and safety for his community.

During the past year, it often felt like Emmett lived at the capitol. When the legislature reconvened in the fall, Emmett and other advocates were exhausted after 10 months of fighting. But Emmett made sure that the space was filled with joy and sweetness. On the day of a critical hearing, a reserved room in the capitol was filled with snacks, games, and toys for kids who had had to defend their existence, month after month and year after year. It was a painful day, but we felt love and solidarity with one another because of the way Emmett advocates and organizes.

When in early 2022 Governor Abbott escalated his attacks on trans youth by attempting to criminalize gender affirmation as a form of child abuse, Emmett, himself a father and trans man, again mobilized the entire state to fight back.

Emmett is leading a scary and grueling fight for trans survival, and we are so lucky to have him.

Strangio is deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU

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